We Filipinos call pork cracklings chicharon so it’s safe to assume that these crisp fatty delicious nuggets form part of the Spanish colonial legacy.
Although chicharon (localized spelling is tsitsaron) is most popular as a snack and a pulutan (finger food served with beer or other alcoholic drinks), chicharon is also used in many dishes. For instance, ground chicharon is sprinkled on pancit palabok and la paz batchoy.
But did you know that whole chunks of chicharon can be added to vegetable stews and the result is really fantastic? It’s a trick I learned from Speedy. He told me how his mom would add chicharon to monggo in lieu of the usual chunks of pork belly, and the humble pot of mung bean stew would be so delicious.
We have tried it, of course, and I have to say that the best chicharon is the kind with a layer of fat attached to the puffed rind. For the following recipe, you can make your own chicharon or use store-bought. If you’re in the Philippines, I recommend Lapid’s unless you’re in Cebu where fantastic chicharon is so endemic so you’ll probably have more brands to choose from.
- 150 grams monggo (green or yellow, your choice)
- scrap pork bones (sold as soup bones in some groceries)
- 6 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 onion sliced
- 2 tomatoes diced
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil
- patis (fish sauce), to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- chunky vegetables (eggplants, okra and squash are my recommendations), diced
- a generous handful of green leafy vegetables — spinach kangkong (water / swamp spinach) or talbos ng kamote (sweet potato leaves)
- chicharon (as much as you like)
Boil the mung beans in about two cups of water for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pan tightly and leave the mung beans to soak and swell for a couple of hours.
Heat about three tablespoonfuls of cooking oil in a pan and sauté the garlic, onion, chilis and tomato, stirring often, until the vegetables start to soften.
Add the pork bones to the pan and cook until no longer pink.
Add the mung beans with the cooking liquid. Stir well. Add more water to make a rather thin mixture.
Season with patis (fish sauce) and with freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour or until the mung beans are mushy and the mixture has thickened. You will need to stir the pot every 15 minutes or so, scraping the bottom of the pan, to make sure that the mung beans do not settle and stick to the bottom.
Add the chunky vegetables, stir and simmer for 10 minutes.
Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed. Add the leafy vegetables and simmer for another five minutes.
Taste one last time and adjust seasonings, if needed. Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle the chicharon on top. Alternatively, add the chicharon along with the leafy vegetables and allow to boil into the stew. Your choice, really.